On Copyright Theft

/begin rant

Pirated books are nothing new. When I was younger, photocopies of books were passed around until the pages were torn, worn, and almost illegible. Another photocopy would appear and continue making the rounds. The digital age just makes it easier.

Most authors, especially indies, spend an inordinate amount of time protecting our ownership of our books. This involves tracking down the owner(s) of a site (sometimes an exercise in futility because they’re well hidden) and sending a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. Sometimes it works, sometimes the pirates just laugh. If I had the money, I’d hire a lawyer to prosecute every pirate. I don’t. But every illegal download is taking money from the author’s pocket, whether the site charges for the copy or not.

A couple of days ago, a friend found a Facebook group that was sharing pdfs of books still in copyright. When the friend called them out on it, one of the responses was, “I didn’t copy the book. I found it on Google, or another website. I’m not guilty of theft.”

Well, yes honey, you are. From the Wikipedia article on copyright:

Forgive my horrible highlighting but if you lend (share) a book without an author’s (or publisher’s) permission, you are guilty of copyright infringement.

Still don’t get it? Okay, how about an analogy:

Let’s say someone stole a painting from a museum. Oh, not to sell it to some rich collector, but to allow many people to enjoy it in their own home. The painting passes from art lover to art lover, without charge, and finally to you. It’s hanging on the wall, right where you can enjoy it from the comfort of your sofa.

Then the cops come to your home and find the stolen painting. “But I didn’t steal it,” you say. “It was given to me by someone else. I have no idea who took it from the museum.”

Do you think the police are going to let you go scot-free? Nope. You’re going to be charged with possession of stolen property.

Perhaps not the best analogy but you should get the idea. If you do not purchase a book from someone the author or publisher has given permission to sell it, or borrow it from a bona fide library you are guilty of a form of theft.

//end rant

Coming Up with Characters

I’ve heard it said that fiction writers base some or all of their characters on people they’ve met. In my case, it’s true. Well, the personalities, anyways. Probably not the species. Mostly. I thought I’d give you a glimpse into how I came up with some of my main characters.

(Clicking on that photo will take you to the page where this mug is offered. I love gifts! 😉 )

As background: In my previous life and, to a lesser extent, my current one, I’m an administrative assistant. In addition to accounting and bookkeeping duties, I end up typing up correspondence for my clients who, although they own computers, can only hunt-and-peck at the keyboard. (Don’t get me started on proper formatting of a business letter!) Hence the premise for the books.

Anyways. As many friends have deduced, Amy’s personality is very similar to my own: a stereotypical Virgo. Her appearance, though, is definitely not me!

Ev, Amy’s boss, is my former employer with a touch of another businessman I worked with for a while. (Neither of whom looked anything like Ev, but I did work for a while with a man who had a hygiene problem.) Not that I’ve ever known anyone to get into the pickles Ev seems to find himself in. Thank goodness.

Fudge, the familiar cat? Anyone who is or has been owned by cats will recognize him in one of theirs. In my case, he’s very much like my first cat, Boomer, who thought he was human. Although he never spoke English to me, the various tones in his meows and expressions on his face were easily interpretable. We had conversations.

Amy’s boyfriend, Tony, comes from an old boyfriend of mine. Their appearance is even similar. No spoilers, but what happens to Tony happened to the boyfriend, too.

Gregory, Ev’s driver and bodyguard and, eventually, Amy’s mentor, is loosely based on a bouncer I worked with at a bar many moons ago. Cork, the owner of Amy’s favorite pub, comes from that same bar. (I have fond memories of that place…)

So, a peek for you into how I come up with characters. There are even more in Amy’s third adventure, which is currently at the editor’s (and, sadly, still lacking a title). Like the egotistical elf, whose prototype I also dated for a (very short) while.

Writers: how do you come up with your characters? Readers: do you see anyone you know in a writer’s actors?

Cheap Proofreading

 

I read. A lot. And one thing that irritates the snot out of me is poor (or non-existent) proofreading. Surprise, surprise. I already complained about it six years ago. And in those six years, it’s gotten worse. I’m currently slogging my way through the last book in a series because they’re cute stories, but Oh. Em. Gee. The errors. Missing open- or close-quotation marks. (Especially the open-quote – makes it difficult to figure out what the hell is going on.) Wrong word usage. (You wear a brooch; you broach a subject, for example. Both are valid words and spellcheck won’t catch the error.) Even her own notations are still there: there’s a phrase in brackets toward the end of one book I’m fairly certain she wanted to consider changing. This author (whom I will not publicly shame) has another series out. I won’t read it, no matter how fun this first set of stories. I will move on to a different, hopefully better proofread, author. (If they hadn’t been on Kindle Unlimited, I wouldn’t have even read the second book in the series.) I won’t write really bad reviews, so won’t review her on Goodreads. Because they’re anonymous, I’ll tell you I two-starred her books on Amazon. Yeah, the grammatical errors brought it down from four – it really detracts from the enjoyment.

Here’s the thing, Independent Author: poor proofing costs you money. If you have more than one book out, people won’t buy the next. I’ve known of people returning books because the poor grammar makes the book nearly unreadable. If you’re in the Kindle Unlimited program, they won’t read all the way to the end of the book. And remember, those of us with disposable income are your bread and butter – not your friends who don’t care if your book is sloppy.

And yes, I know. Proofreading, much less editing, is expensive and most independent authors can’t afford it. I know how much I don’t make on my books and it’s the same for everyone else. (Unless you’re Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, or someone in that echelon.) I can afford an editor and do use one because as good as I am at self-editing, I can’t see all my own damned mistakes.

So, I’m hanging out a shingle as a cheap proofreader. Why?

  1. Public Service. As I said, most indie authors can’t afford a proofreader, much less a full-fledged editor. Professional proofreaders charge approximately 2¢ per word. On a 60,000 word book, that’s $1,200. Even I won’t pay that much. But with decent proofing, your readers won’t want to get out their red pencil three pages in. Chances are, you’ll sell more copies of the next book; or people will read all the way to the end, giving you a larger slice of the Kindle Unlimited pie. Then there’s that thing I mentioned in the linked post about kids learning English by reading. Important!
  2. I have the time. I’m semi-retired from my day job and after Amy’s third adventure goes to print, I don’t know if I’ll write another book. Although there are ideas in the back of my noggin, I might; I might not. I can’t spend all day in the garden because my joints are no longer willing to work that hard, and there are those rainy summer days and dreary winter months where I won’t spend any time at all out there. And no one wants to top-to-bottom clean house every day!

I said cheap, not free. I am not a professional, just your everyday grandmother with, apparently, a better grasp of grammar (in its larger sense) than some. I’m not a copy editor*. I won’t help you structure your book or make suggestions to make it better. I also won’t promise perfection – I’ll probably miss something here or there. (I’ve caught errors in books put out by major publishing houses. No one’s perfect.) But to give away that sort of service would imply that it’s not work. It is. While I can read a book quickly for enjoyment, reading it critically takes more time. And it seems a service is more valued if money changes hands.

So…here’s a deal. $50 for any book up to 80,000 words. Fiction only; no erotica or horror – I can’t even slog my way through those genres. For most authors on Kindle, that’s going to amount to the income from about 18 books – or 2 weeks’ worth of a daily iced mocha half-caf, shot-of-vanilla latte. At that price, it should be worth it.

What do I get out of it? First, a chance to help independent authors. Second, perhaps a chance to read the next-to-hit-it-big author before anyone else (apart from family and friends, that is 😉 ).

If this is of interest, email me at dj[at]authordjmartin[dot]com and we can talk. I’d love to help.

 

*If you’re looking for a good editor, mine is awesome and reasonably priced. I’m happy to put you in touch with her.

(Image found on Pinterest without credit and I couldn’t track it back. Happy to credit if it’s yours.)

 

 

City Mouse Builds a Country Garden, Part Trois

Lack of forethought means a lot more work…

Almost three years ago, I gave up on the cypress mulch in the garden paths and put rock down. I was tired of re-mulching the paths every year ($$) and the mulch washing away when we had a hard rain.  I failed to think before doing so…

The reason I had to re-mulch every year is because as an organic substance, it degrades over time. A long-term composting, if you will.  I put the rock down right on top of the mulch. I should’ve done the hard work of taking up everything first.

Two-plus years later, nearly all of the mulch is now dirt. Nice stuff, too, according to the weeds that are filling the pathways. But it’s compacted down, so there’s moss filling in gaps. Weed killer, of any kind (and I’ve tried just about everything), doesn’t completely work. (Salt does kill the moss – leaving black crap between the rocks instead of green.) The paths are a mess I can’t keep up with, and it all offends my Virgo sense of neatness. So, I decided it was time to take up the rock, get rid of the dirt, and put the rock back down on the weed-block fabric we’d put down when the garden was originally built. (At least we thought about that!)

I thought it would be a simple matter of scooping the rock to the side, shoveling all the dirt off (I have plenty of places to dump dirt) and smoothing the rock back down. Not! I also failed to think about the weight of the rocks themselves, or the fact that those paths get walked on – a lot. The rocks have worked themselves all the way down into the dirt.

So, it’s scoop it up a bit at a time, put those scoops into a screened box the husband built, wash it off, empty the box into the wheelbarrow, repeat, ad nauseum. Once the wheelbarrow’s full, clean up the rest of the dirt, dump the rocks back into their spot, and continue. Unfortunately, I can only do this for about an hour at a time before my back, hips, and knees start barking. (Gads, I hate getting older.) I can get about 9 square feet done before having to stop. To give you some idea of the scope of the project, just the outer ring is about 400 square feet.

I’d told husband it was going to be a summer-long project. At the time, I had no idea how right I was…

Do the Mundane!

/rant

“Magic is the solution to all problems.” Not. If that were the case, every experienced witch would have won the lottery; they and all their family and friends would be in perfect health (and probably immortal because who wants to lose a loved one?); there would never be any disagreements (world peace, anyone?); etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I see this so much in new witches, especially young ones who are looking for a quick fix to all their woes, but where I find myself explaining and educating the most is to non-witches. (Duh. They don’t understand how magic works because all they know is what the movies show them. “We don’t sparkle” could be applied to us as well as vampires!) Case in point:

A neighbor (the only one who doesn’t mind living near a witch and therefore takes care of our cats when we’re away) has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. We were talking about it after my husband and I returned from vacation. He asked, “isn’t there something you can do, you know, woo-woo, to cure me?”

My reply was, “Diet and exercise.”

Him: “Yeah. That’s what the doctor said. But…”

Me: “I can help but you have to do the hard work, too.”

Him: “But…”

Me: “You know the phrase, ‘God helps those who help themselves?’ Same thing with magic. My Universe is like your god. If you don’t do the work to get well and maintain your health, why waste the energy? It just becomes a vicious cycle – your body heals itself for a while but because you haven’t done anything to prevent a recurrence, the symptoms come back. You ask me to do another spell, it works for a while, the symptoms come back. See where I’m going with this?”

Him: “Aw crap.”

Me: “Listen, neighbor. Prove to me you’re willing to follow doctors orders and I’ll do what I can to help. Call me in a month after your next doctor’s appointment and we’ll talk, okay?”

It’s been six weeks and I haven’t heard a peep. CHF is nothing to screw around with and I have a feeling I’ll be losing this neighbor (who is younger than me) sooner rather than later. It makes me sad.

To be frank, most problems can be solved without the use of magic. It’s usually not easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is. To me, magic is just another tool in my arsenal – a tool to be used either as an aid in what needs to be done or, as a last resort, when mundane methods fail. (I’m getting to the ‘last resort’ stage on one issue.) Am I glad I have that extra tool? You bet. But outcomes are more lasting if the mundane is done either first or alongside the magical.

So, next time you have a problem, look at all the mundane things that could/should be done before resorting to magic. You (and your resident witch) will be happier in the long run.

//rant

 

Belize

As most of you know, we went to Belize for our vacation this year. It was …enh. And not the fault of anyone, really. I chose the wrong time of year to go for fishing (my husband’s hobby), and the weather was unusually rainy, making it unpleasant to go for walks on the beach. But there were bright spots!

The place we stayed was wonderful. After a rough start (our flight was almost an hour late leaving Atlanta, making us miss our connection from Belize City to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, and thus to the resort), we were greeted by smiles and

Tidbit: we were talking with one of the owners over drinks our first night. (A Dutchman who’d been in Belize for 17 years.) He was telling us about all the different sorts of people who populate Belize…Maya, mestizos, blacks, whites… and some of the personnel difficulties he had when developing the resort. Apparently one worker got pissed at another worker of a different race and put a curse on him! It was mentioned casually, as if witchcraft was normal. I loved it!

The first day was relaxing – sort of. Our cabaña was right on the beach, affording a lovely view from the porch.

Unfortunately, they have a major fly problem. They do spray for mosquitoes but haven’t figured out the flies, yet. Sitting on the porch meant a lot of swatting. But there were “pets”, too.

This little guy lived below our porch and we saw him every day. He didn’t do a lot of snacking on flies, though.

Palm trees usually mean coconuts, right? Yep. But these sure don’t look anything like the ones we get in stores here – they’re about twice the size! I had to watch where I walked because I didn’t want to get beaned by one…

Tidbit: coconut water comes from green coconuts. Coconut milk comes from ripe ones. The staff person who answered my questions offered to knock down one of the green ones, bore a hole, and let me drink the water. I declined but it sure was sweet of her to offer!

You may not know it, but Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world. Although I’m used to the sound of surf when near the ocean, the waves breaking over the reef sounded very much like the roar of a distant interstate, minus horn honking and the howling of jake brakes. And because of the reef, the water really isn’t very deep. At the end of the resort’s pier, it’s only about 3 or 4 feet and (according to my husband who knows about these things) only about 30-40 feet at its deepest inside the reef. Not really deep enough to go swimming. Not that I wanted to. I dipped my toes into the water and it was cold. (For friends: I panicked over getting a new swimsuit needlessly. It never came out of the suitcase.)

Enlarge & look closely. There’s a line of waves indicating the reef.

I spent a lot of time on the porch, supposedly reading but in reality, watching the birds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good picture of the frigate birds flying around but there were at least four of them.

Pelicans.
White Ibis

Tuesday was the highlight of the trip. We made our way inland (15 minute boat ride from the resort to the airport, 15 minute flight from the island airport back to the mainland, one hour drive north) to the Lamanai Archaeological Reserve. Our tour started 27 miles downriver from the Reserve with about an hour boat ride. The guide stopped several times for us to see cool things along the river.

Water Lilies
Can you spot the Iguana?

Two things I couldn’t get a picture of: one crocodile (Lamanai means “Sunken Crocodile”) who submerged too fast for me to get the phone up, and a pair of Jabiru storks (google them, they’re cool), who were too far away for the puny camera on my phone to capture. (One of these years, I’m going to remember to bring a real camera with me.) I have a couple of photos of howler monkeys that are so bad, I won’t share them.

The ruins were fascinating. Lamanai was active for about 3,000 years (1500 BCE to 1500 CE) and encompassed 20 square miles. The Reserve (the protected area) unfortunately only covers about a tenth of that. The estimated population was between 40,000 and 60,000, quite a bit larger than Tulum. It’s not as open or excavated as Tulum, either. Three temples plus a few other structures have been uncovered. The first we were taken to was the “Mask Temple”:

Mask on the left bottom side of the temple. There’s another one on the right (the stairs are on the right of this photo.)

What you see isn’t stone. It’s a fiberglass shell covering the original stone, preventing further erosion. Our guide had a drawing of what it looked like when initially uncovered:

The blue paint was only visible for about a month before it washed away.

Nearby, a building with a stela, depicting a Mayan chieftain.

Tidbit: as a chief, his headdress has feathers in it. (I forgot to get a picture of the sketch of what it originally looked like.) I verbally assumed quetzal feathers and got a glare in return. The guide’s response was, “Have you ever seen a quetzal? [No, of course not.] They’re small, very rare birds with only three tail feathers. There’s no way every chief could have quetzal feathers in his headdress. Me? I’d rather have feathers from an ocellated turkey. Their feathers are bright blue.” I googled them when I got home and agree with the guide. The feathers are gorgeous!

The second temple we were taken to is the main temple for Lamanai.

In its heyday, it was 13 stories high. Eleven are still (mostly) intact. Tourists may no longer climb the stairs in front. Almost 4 years ago, a lady climbed the precipitous stairs and took the express down. She was airlifted back to the US, unconscious, with multiple broken bones. No one I could find knows if she survived, including our guide. Instead, there are now wooden stairs to the left so you can go all the way up to the top. My hips and acrophobia said, “nope” to that one.

Tidbit: a good friend has visited the site and says it’s still active. Not wanting to piss any local spirits off, I took some cornmeal with me as an offering. (No one in customs had a second thought about a container of powder in my cosmetic case. 🙂 ) About five minutes into the walk to the first temple, I started getting a migraine. I haven’t had one of those in decades. While everyone was clambering around the top of the main temple, I excused myself from the rest of the group, walked a ways away, and sprinkled the cornmeal around with a quiet ‘thanks’. Five minutes later, the headache was gone. Active? You be the judge.

In addition to the ruins, they’re very good about marking the types of trees. For those of you who enjoy copal resin, this is what its source looks like:

The last temple is called the “Jaguar Temple”. Yes, those lovely animals still populate the surrounding area.

(The grassy area is large enough to put in a football pitch with room to spare.)

Tidbit: husband had a closer look at this temple than I did. He said there are the remains of something being burned very recently (probably incense) on one of the stones.

Opposite this temple are the remains of a palace. We know the Maya were small people according to today’s standards but the rooms uncovered are smaller than my bathroom!

That was the extent of our tour. There are mounds, and mounds, and mounds that they haven’t yet uncovered but have scanned. They know at least two are burials … that much was shared with us. But the rest? Nobody’s talking. And frankly, I don’t blame them. If they published all their findings, looters would probably be there in a heartbeat.

The ride downriver back to our starting point was miserable. The air temperature was in the mid-70s (F) but it was raining. (Yes, we brought rain ponchos.) 25 mph boat speed into a windy rain for about 45 minutes. I froze. I changed into jeans & a long-sleeved shirt when we got back to the resort, put on my lightweight jacket, and was still shivering through dinner. I spent the rest of the evening huddled under a down comforter and didn’t feel completely warm for several hours.

Our last day was sunny … and rainy … and sunny … But it afforded this gorgeous shot:

If we go back (and I say ‘if’ because there are a lot of other places in the world we want to visit), we’ll stay on the mainland. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to get to stuff to do, and you still get all the water sports you can get on the island. (Fishing for husband only. The rest don’t interest us.)

Yuletide* Ruminations

I know, I know. I’ve been terrible about blogging. 2017 has had its ups and downs, most of which I don’t care to share with the public.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice here in the northern hemisphere. Because I celebrate a solar year, that means Friday is New Year’s Day for me. This is the time of year I reflect on what has happened and plan for what (hopefully) will come to pass.

The reflections: it’s been a tough year for both not-straight-white-Christian-and-rich humans and the Earth. Between all the natural disasters around the world and the crap coming out of our elected officials in Washington, DC, I haz a major sad. My one public political rant: I see things happening in 2017 I thought we were moving past. Hell, I protested against some of it almost 50 years ago. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana) Seems history isn’t being studied much anymore…

I haven’t written a whole lot, even outside this blog. I’ve been too busy reading old herbals/medical texts as research for the next herb book. And by old, I mean 16th-19th century stuff. Let me tell you, it’s eye-crossing. Some of the “remedies” are jaw-droppingly horrid (and probably quite ineffective), and there’s the issues of archaic language, handwriting, and typography. (The typography is especially difficult if you’re reading a scan of a book printed on thin paper – the print bleeds through, further muddling what you’re trying to read.) I can only handle it in small chunks, which makes the research slow-going. It’s frustrating because I’m usually a fast reader.

A bright spot: our 6th grandchild was born in March. Although we don’t get to see him much, son & daughter-in-law are great about posting pics on Facebook so I’ve been able to watch him grow that way. The other 5 are growing like weeds and we delight in every accomplishment.

The planning: first and foremost, completing the aforementioned research and actually start writing! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but I’m not quite there, yet. I’m hoping to have a first draft completed sometime in the 4th quarter of 2018. That means actual release mid 2019.

Also writing related: figure out how to get myself out of the fiction funk. I’ve only written a few thousand words on Amy’s third adventure with Ev this year. Although I know what has to happen, I haven’t been able to talk myself into sitting down and typing it out.

I need to almost completely replant the garden. 2016 was a drought; 2017 was so wet I had pools rather than raised beds a lot of the time. You know it’s been a stressful couple of years when the catnip gives up.

And finally…finish up the work on the house so I can enjoy the peace & quiet for a few months until my husband retires late next year and will be home all the time (eek!). The weather hasn’t cooperated with some of the outside work and local contractors don’t seem to want or need my business to do the few things I want done inside. I suspect it’ll be next spring before my sidewalks are finally finished (they were started in August). I solved one inside problem by calling someone I know down in Atlanta who agreed to come all the way up here. That’s what I call service!

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope this is one of the best holidays seasons for you!

 

*Yuletide was once celebrated for 13 days, starting with the first full moon after the Winter Solstice. So, going by what our ancestors did, that would be January 1-12, 2018. I gave up trying to follow that calendar a few years ago, and now go with the general pagan definition of 13 days beginning on the Winter Solstice (as opposed to the Christian definition of 13 days starting on December 25th). It’s just easier…

 

 

2017 Solar Eclipse Thoughts

Pick any superlative adjective … it was all that and more.

We were lucky enough to be in the path of totality so invited friends who weren’t to join us on the deck for a day of fun and a (probably) once-in-a-lifetime experience. At the time I issued the invitation, no one knew what the weather was going to be like. Summer afternoons in Georgia can be anywhere from perfectly clear, to partly cloudy, to popup showers/thunderstorms, to completely covered up. Even the morning of, the “local” (Atlanta) meteorologists were predicting 30% cloud cover in the areas of totality in Georgia. It was a crapshoot.

We lucked out and as guests started arriving, it was perfectly clear. Which meant wonderful viewing but on a deck that gets 12 hours of direct sun, it was toasty! Adult beverages, lots of conversation, and some guitar jamming by my husband and a friend … it was a party!

I did, however, watch some clouds building in the south with a little apprehension. Would they hold off?

A light lunch, then sky-watching – it was still clear above us. It started shortly after 1:00 p.m. I wanted photos but had read that taking a direct photo of the sun can harm the camera lens on a phone, so ingeniously (I thought), I taped a lens from a pair of viewing glasses over my phone’s lens. Nope. Just an orange blur. I even tried the same thing on our regular camera. Not quite as blurry as the phone but still didn’t show anything of import. The photo below was taken with my phone at totality without any filter. The sun’s corona still overloaded the camera so you can’t even tell the moon is in front!

I’m still heaving a big sigh. However, we do have a lot of trees which become a good filter if you look down, rather than up. See the half-moons?

The moment (a little over a minute) of totality was probably the most awesome thing. The lighting was a nice twilight (ah, a little relief from the heat!) but the silence. No birdsong, no bugs’ buzz, not even the usual slight background hum from the 4-lane four miles away. It wasn’t quite dark enough for the night critters to start their song, either. Just a couple of quiet “wows” from us.

The “diamond” appeared (the first glimpse of the sun as the moon moves out of the way) and that moment was almost over. We were still quiet until…a small plane flew by. That ruined the moment and it went back to being a party again. The clouds finally made it this far north about an hour after totality (we even had a very brief shower) and obscured the rest of the eclipse but that was okay.

I didn’t experience any “woo” during the eclipse but I can tell you that neither my husband nor I slept at all well that night. We’re wondering if it messed with our circadian rhythms a little. Thankfully, it was just one night – I slept like a log last night!

I’ve been thinking about that day since then. Unless we travel (which we might), husband and I will never see a total eclipse again in our lifetimes. (If we travel, I will definitely buy a real solar filter for the camera.) But what I really took away from it:

There were ten people on our deck that day. All friends of ours, to be sure (which automatically means they’re cool people), but they’d never met each other before. Christians, Pagans of different paths, Agnostics, and Atheists all intermingling, enjoying themselves, and making new friends. I wish that would happen more in the wider world.

The Wheel of the Year – A Rant

Wheel of the Year

/begin rant

August first was Lugnasadh, Lammas, First Harvest, whatever you want to call it. A friend who also lives in the Southeastern United States posted on Facebook that he wasn’t celebrating … it was still summer. And I agreed. We were both called on the carpet (somewhat) for saying such.

FYI, the “Cross Quarter” holidays aren’t celebrated by all, and sometimes not on the same date. Lughnasadh/Lammas and the other three cross-quarters holidays were started in climes much more northerly than mine and by cultures who relied on farming for their living. When I lived farther north, around August 1st was indeed the beginnings of harvest and although the days were still hot, there was a feeling that Fall wasn’t far away. First harvest around here happens about mid-July. I saw the neighboring farmer harvesting part of his kitchen garden then. He cut the first crop of hay the middle of June and is now growing his third crop. So, August first? Mid-harvest.

The other thing that chaps my ass is the date. You do realize the calendar by which we now live only dates back to the 16th century (1582, to be exact) but wasn’t adopted by all areas of the world until the 18th century? I can’t speak for my ancestors, but I’m willing to bet they celebrated their first harvest on different days. Weather is a huge factor in farming. More or less sun, more or less rain (or snow) affects when you would be able to get your seeds or seedlings into the ground and the length of the growing season, all affecting when you’d be able to gather your crops. Horrible weather year? Might not be a celebration at all because there was nothing to harvest so nothing to celebrate.

I apply the same sort of logic to the Equinoxes and Solstices. The “official” dates for each vary by a few hours one way or the other due to the tilt of the Earth and the not-exactly-365-day-year, making them fall somewhere in a 2-day period, but they’re calculated by when the sun crosses the Equator; and when the Sun is at its farthest points from the Equator. I don’t live at the Equator. I’d also be willing to bet my ancestors celebrated these events when they happened where they lived. I celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices when they happen here. I go by the “longest day, longest night, and equal night” definitions. As an example, the true Fall Equinox here, September 26th, is as close as one can get – less than a minute off equality. The official date is September 22nd.

I don’t celebrate Cross Quarter days because they really hold no meaning for me – I am decidedly a city girl in that regard. (Samhain? The veil’s thin around here every day and I venerate those who have gone before every day.)

I can’t recall a time I ever argued with someone else’s holiday. If “First Harvest” is August first for you, have at it. If you want to celebrate the other holidays according to the calendar, good for you. But don’t climb in my shit because I don’t celebrate as or when you do.

//end rant

 

Catching Up

It’s been a (long) while since I’ve posted anything here. Quite frankly, I haven’t had a lot to say but thought I should at least let you know I’m still alive.

Apart from the clickety-punch (which is never-ending), I’ve kept myself busy:

  • Bemoaning my garden. Last year was a horrid year because of the drought. This year is just as bad in the opposite direction. We’ve had about 150% of normal rain and everything is drowning. The beds are pools of mud. (It’s pouring as I’m typing.) About the only thing growing well is the grass, which I’m being hard-pressed to keep out of the beds. On the bright side, I don’t have to fill the fountain!
  • Having some things done around the house. The writing tent is no longer a tent but has a permanent roof. (I have to come up with a better name, now.) I’d post a picture but see the above statement about it pouring. There’s still a bit of staining to do so it completely matches the house but again, the rain… My handyman has a list of things I’d like done (next up is making hard surface walkways from the house to the garden steps and over to the compost bin so I can avoid chiggers) and he’ll eventually get around to it all but the rain…
  • While fiction is still on the back burner (but not off the stove), I’ve been researching for the next herb book. Not certain of the title or format, yet, but it’s going to be a look at herb use through history. It’s been a fascinating (and sometimes frightening) read thus far. It’s also been a sometimes difficult read. English spelling wasn’t standardized until about the eighteenth century so I have to “translate”. There’s also the “fun” of reading that same non-standard English printed in blackletter.
  • Preparing to do my first show in many years. I’ll be at the Appalachian Renaissance Faire October 14-15. While I won’t have nearly as many products as I once did (mostly my books and oils with a few other odds and ends), I have to revamp some things to fit the “new” shop.
  • Still trying to learn the Herbal Tarot. It’s not going well. I can tell you if I’ve pulled a card before but what the meaning is? Still have to look, even seven months in. Rune reading is far easier for me, and I’ve been doing that for people.
  • I got pulled into the time-suck of genealogy research. I’d started maybe a decade ago and tabled it but my kid’s interest prompted me to go back. The really fun thing about it? I’ve always wondered where my witchiness came from. While I believe anyone can be a witch if the propensity is there, my gut feeling was there was one in my family tree, somewhere. I knew it wasn’t my maternal side – I know that side well and someone who was “not right” would have been talked about. (I mean, apart from my gay great-uncle who was only spoken of in whispers, when they spoke of a man who “chose not to marry”.) Last week, I was able to trace part of my father’s side – of which I know nothing because the asshole wasn’t around. Got to my 2nd great-grandmother, whose family photo was posted by another person on Ancestry. There was something about her, y’know? While I was musing, I heard, very faintly, “ye found me, child”. I sent thanks, then let out a whoop loud enough to scare the cats. I’ll never know much about her but just knowing she’s there is good enough.

So, as you can see, I’m still here, continually caffeinating to keep up with it all – and our crazy cats. You can generally find me posting interesting snippets of my research on Twitter or Facebook.